WASHINGTON – Gen. Colin Powell reportedly warned President George W. Bush before his 2003 invasion of Iraq: “You break it, you own it.” We all know the story: At the passionate urging of a clique of Washington neoconservatives, Bush launched a war for freedom that resulted in anything but.
Federal agencies under President Obama, prodded by similar forces, decided to help buy the same brand of freedom for the people of Syria, Libya and Egypt.
Wading into history they didn’t understand, these two presidents reaped the whirlwind, breeding colonies of terrorists and worse, creating more than a million refugees and unleashing unprecedented persecution of ancient religious minorities, Christians in the main.
How much a president can do to protect religious minorities living in the turmoil he created is a fair question. But Obama’s special envoy to persecuted sects, Pastor Suzan Johnson Cook of Long Island, had a notably unremarkable tenure over 30 months, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Perhaps Johnson Cook is more to be pitied than censured. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Johnson Cook stuffed deep into the State Department’s bureaucracy, forcing her to report to one of her myriad assistant secretaries. Johnson Cook recently quit, she says, to make more money.
The atrocities committed by Islamist elements across North Africa and South Asia against Muslim and Bahia sects and Christians are almost beyond telling. More than a tenth of the Christian world is under threat – 40 Coptic Christian churches burned in Egypt, tens of thousands of Christians fleeing violence in Syria, nearly half the original 1.4 million Iraqi Christians fled over its borders, suicide bombers killing dozens of Christians in Pakistan.
“Without an end to this violence,” said Catholic Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, “Christian worship could disappear completely from these countries, which would be an incredible tragedy. Our political leaders must use every diplomatic means possible to press the governments in the Middle East to protect churches, religious institutions and Christian communities from what could be total destruction.”
Many of these communities were founded 2,000 years ago by Christ’s apostles themselves.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, along with the rest of the House delegation from Western New York, supported a Republican bill in September that would create a special ambassador to deal with religious persecution overseas. The envoy would report directly to the president and secretary of state and track the welfare of religious minorities. It took eight months to bring the bill to the floor, but passed overwhelmingly under the radar of the budget crisis.
An identical Senate version was introduced by Missouri Republican Roy Blunt more than seven months ago. Five of the original 17 co-sponsors are Democrats. The Senate Democratic leadership, however, seems to be in no rush, despite the fact that the legislation’s preamble mentions the killing of hundreds of Christians in two Muslim countries receiving billions a year in U.S. aid, Egypt and Pakistan, and in Syria where so-called freedom fighters are reportedly getting U.S. arms and other assistance.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are cool to the legislation. A Kerry aide called it “duplicative.” High-level concerns for peaceful minorities in Syria, for example, might complicate things for American agents who want to stir the pot there some more.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., says he supports Blunt’s bill. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is looking it over.
There are precedents, of course, where America looked the other way from rampant religious and ethnic victimization: Rwanda in 1994 and the Nazis’ Kristallnacht in 1938. But never before where we had such deep, prior involvements.